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Etihad Airlines is the flagship carrier of the United Arab Emirates and one of the top ranked airlines in the world. Based in Abu Dhabi, the airline is not part of any alliance, but they have several partners around the world including American Airlines. This means that you can use American Aadvantage miles to book award tickets on Etihad.
Etihad flies between several North American cities and their hub in Abu Dhabi. They also have an extensive route network to Asia & Europe as well. Since American Airlines restricts how you can get to/from the Middle East and India, having Etihad as a partner is very valuable. To get to this area of the world, you have to route via the Atlantic, which eliminates many of American’s partners.
One of the downsides of booking Etihad tickets with Aadvantage is that you can’t see award space on the AA website. To book an award which contains an Etihad flight, you have to call in to their often unfriendly call center. While the call can’t be avoided, let me show you how to check the available inventory ahead of time to make sure you have all of the information you need.
The first thing you need to do before searching for any Aadvantage award is verify that the transatlantic airline publishes a fare from your origin to your destination. Etihad publishes fares from many cities in North America to destinations in the middle east and India, so this shouldn’t be a problem. The easiest way to check if they publish a fare for your origin/destination is to do a simple search on their homepage. If they let you purchase a ticket from your home airport to your destination, then booking an award shouldn’t be a problem.
Next, you need to find which routes will work for you. Finding Etihad routes is easy since they provide a great online route map. The interactive map will allow you to see everywhere that Etihad flies to/from Abu Dhabi so you can find the routes to search for. Usually, I start with all of the North American routes. If I can find availability on the transatlantic section, then connecting flights are a lot easier.
Once you have found the routes you want to search, go to Etihad’s award search page. (I recommend you bookmark this link!) Thankfully Etihad doesn’t require you to log in to search for award space, so the process is quick and easy.
Finding Award Space
Once on the award search page, enter in all of the required information including origin & destination, dates and number of guests. (I recommend you search each segment as a one-way award.) Unfortunately you can only search for one class at a time, so you must choose whether to search for space in economy, business or first class here as well. Once everything is filled out click “Search Flights”.
The search results are now shown as a grid. In the image below you can see a search from Abu Dhabi to New York (AUH-JFK). On this flight there is 1 business class seat available in “Guest Business” in the first tab. Only flights that show up under the light grey “GuestSeat” tab are bookable with American miles. You can also click on surrounding days to see if there is any other inventory.
A few months ago Etihad announced a second daily AUH-JFK flight. This flight which is the one with a ticket available in the screenshot above, seems to have more inventory in the premium cabins than other transatlantic routes.
Etihad is using a 777-300 jet that is leased from Jet Airways on this flight, which means it doesn’t have their typical configuration. Either way, you would still get the same soft product experience and on some days when there is no other premium cabin space, this flight may be your best option.
Since American allows you to route through Europe when traveling to/from the Middle East & India, you can also fly on Etihad to/from a OneWorld hub like London or Dusseldorf. (Once again you have to make sure the transatlantic carrier publishes a fare between your origin and destination.)
Here you can see 4 business class seats available on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Dusseldorf. You could then book an Air Berlin flight from Dusseldorf to several cities in the United States including New York & Los Angeles.
Once you have your Etihad segments figured out, you could use American’s website to search for domestic connecting flights or rely on the phone agent to this for you. (I recommend finding the flights yourself.) I will have a post in the next few days about how I put together my flight home from Kochi, India to Las Vegas, NV using several Aadvantage partners including Etihad to give you a better step by step.
Finally, once all of your flights are figured out, it is time for the dreaded call. Aadvantage can be reached at 1-800-882-8880. When I get an agent on the phone I usually lie and tell them that I have already gone over my flights with another agent. If you don’t do this then they assume you don’t know what you are talking about and are more apt to try to force their own routing on you.
After telling the “lie”, most AAdvantage agents will be happy to let you feed them each segment one by one. Usually once they see that you are giving them valid flights with space, they become less hesitant as well. With that said, if you get a rude or unhelpful agent then the best thing to do is hang up and call back.
As you can see, searching for Etihad award inventory is both simple and painless. Any available award that shows up under “GuestSeat” should be bookable with Aadvantage miles. A one-way flight to the middle east or India costs 40,000 miles in economy, 67,500 miles in business and 90,000 miles in first class. For a full list of mileage costs, see the AA partner award chart.
Hopefully you can now see that finding and booking flights on Etihad is neither a daunting task or one that requires too much time or skill. I am personally looking forward to flying from Abu Dhabi to Toronto next month in business class. I have heard great things about both the hard and soft products, so I can’t wait to experience them for myself!
If you have any questions about specific routes or anything else please let me know! I am always here to help.
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